Dhangar protest: After Marathas, Maharashtra’s shepherd community demands quota; agitation in Mumbai, Marathwada

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After the Maratha agitation in Maharashtra for 16 percent quota in government jobs, the Dhangars — the shepherd community — in the state are set to launch a stir seeking reservation in jobs and educational institutions under the Schedule Tribe (ST) category.
The Dhangar community leaders will hold a statewide agitation under the Dhangar Sangharsh Samiti Maharashtra Rajya (DSSMR) from 10 am to 6 pm on Monday, reported The Indian Express.
Monday also marks the death anniversary of Ahilyabai Holkar, a Dhangar queen of Indore who ruled the Malwa kingdom (parts of central and western Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra) for almost three decades.
At a meeting of the Dhangar community leaders in Mumbai on Saturday, local leaders across Marathawada, Vidarbha and northern Maharashtra were asked to gather the community and mark strategic locations for the protests. It was made clear that violence was not to be used during the agitation, but at the same time the leaders were asked to go “all out” to display their presence.
Protests in Solapur over the demand for reservations for Maratha community, on Monday. PTIFile image of Maratha protests. PTI
DSSMR leader, Rajya Sabha MP and Padma Shri awardee Dr Vikas Mahatme told the Indian Express that the stir was to highlight the pending demand of the community to be included under the ST category to avail its benefits. “The agitation was necessary following unrest among the community members, especially the poor, who believe their voice is not being heard by the government,” he said. During the recently concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament, Mahatme brought up the issue in the Upper House in July and warned that the community was losing patience and may go the of Maratha unrest.
Accounting for about a crore in population (9 percent), the shepherd community or Dhangars are a nomadic tribe that live mostly in western Maharashtra and Marathwada regions. They play a crucial role in four Lok Sabha seats (Baramati, Madha, Solapur, Satara) and nearly 35 Assembly seats.The community is currently listed under the Vimukti Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) in Maharashtra. While they have been recognised as a Schedule Tribe by the Centre, it has been misspelt as ‘Dhangads’, depriving the community of benefits under the ST status, according to another Indian Express report. At present, Dhangars have 3.5 percent reservation in Maharashtra.